Flour choice corporate messenger: free, your server, not iChat

Hello everyone, my name is Dmitry, I have been working as a developer in a small software company in Russia for 5 years. I would like to tell you about how “historically it was” with the chat in our company, to share my torments of choosing a worthy heir and the solutions found.


When I came to work on the first day, they showed me my workplace, gave me a computer, registered in Fat and Gitlab, and showed the main means of communication between employees - iChat. You might think this is something about Apple, but everything was a bit worse.

My oh- surprised face colleagues explained that it was historically the same (some kind of thread link), and in general everyone understands that it is a bit strange, but no one plans to change anything. After all, iChata (it is completely called Intranet Chat - Wikipedia ) has so many advantages:

  • standing on our server and not rustling
  • all for free (The author of the program released the latest version in 2002, for free)
  • “Has an aesthetic and uncomplicated interface” (thanks for the quote, Wikipedia)
  • has all the necessary functions - personal chats and "bulletin board"

Well, probably everything is ok, I just do not understand something, I thought. But after several weeks of using the domestic tube lamp, its disadvantages are clearly visible:

  • no history - reboot the computer, and if yesterday your colleague Vasya sent someone's e-mail, go read the logs in a text file
  • you can not transfer files - welcome corporate ftp-exchanger, shared folders on the disk, or personal clouds (I personally drive my OneDrive account if necessary)
  • it is impossible to sit in a chat from an e-mail normally (it’s ok to write to colleagues only by connecting via VPN or RDP)
  • you can’t write to someone who is offline now - if a colleague is working from home today, or has left early, or is not working now - remember your message until better times
  • After all, the client is available only under Windows since the 98th version - no iPhones and online for you 24 hours a day
  • Naturally, there is no normal highlighting of something: code, links (ok, there is a backlight, but you cannot click on them), hypertext

Situation: we have a "chat with disabilities." So many "no", that the head is spinning. Almost all employees simultaneously communicate with the colleagues they need via some Skype, Vatsapy and Telegrams: there you can skip files, and the client for android is there, and you can be incredibly online on a business trip. If you get sick, it is not necessary after three people to transfer to a colleague from another department that you will not be tomorrow, and you can find the link to the Habr necessary info that you threw a week ago without Cthulhu's prayers.

So why not just use Skype / Whatsapp / Telegram / Viber / ICQ?

Perhaps you can already say what the problem is. Firstly, all employees are clustered around their chosen instant messengers. One needs to write there, another one here, for one of my colleagues, I even kept ICQ constantly running, he did not use anything else (even ayatom). And that su is typical, no one wants to perelezit to another chat, and those who do not use them in principle (yes, there are many among programmers, mostly older employees, or paranoids, or both), do not want start off.

And secondly, I have classmates, acquaintances, and my entire contact list in the telegram, and it is impossible to properly separate my colleagues from all the others. And to find out that there is a colleague in the telegraph, I can only ask him. Sometimes I don’t know at all that I have a new colleague until I see someone unfamiliar behind a computer in another office. In short chaos.

Then I asked our head of the department whether it was possible to get a newer program and , nevertheless, Apple’s more technically advanced program so that everyone wouldn’t suffer from garbage.and could quietly chat in one place. “There is no such program,” was the answer. How not, I thought, and said that there definitely is, can not be. "Then find, and we'll see." Ok, now the digital age, everything is googling, it's easy to find something sane, I thought. I was a little wrong.

Requirements for chat from the organization

  • free or one-time payment of the amount below 5,000 wooden (“now free of charge, so you don’t want to pay, and even 3k every month” - there’s something to do with paying for the chat in the organization, and the toad also presses me to pay at rates that US companies offer other American and not quite American companies)
  • installation on your server is at least very desirable if not necessary
  • Russian language support (only the development department can use the English version, and only with a stretch)

Requirements for chat from me

  • cross-platform. So that I could finally sitting at lunch, or in transport, or on vacation someone write something from the phone, and find out what someone wrote to me. And so that my colleague, who has Linux, does not make a sad face every time with the word "chat".
  • sharpened by communication in the companies. So that I had a chat, where there are all my colleagues and only my colleagues
  • live active project. So that bugs, like insects frozen in amber, do not hang in the product until the end of time
  • file transfer. Well, why should I upload this picture into a shared folder, if I can just drop it via chat!
  • normal sync notifications / unread. So as not in Skype - I got the message, and then within 24 hours you find a notification about it on each of your devices.

In the footsteps of aychata

At first I tried to find something similar to aychat, small, local, free, under Windows, without intricacies. Russian offerings in this market segment are often something incredible: a poor set of functionality, frozen around the mid-2000s, is combined with a clumsy user interface a la “my first project in Delphi” and a horse price, which can Only dream marketers from JetBrains and Adobe. Often in the kit there is a complete or partial lack of support.

One of the best options that I managed to find was the “Commfort” chat. The name intrigued me, but in fact everything turned out to be not so comfortable.

The cost of comfort for my organization of about 30-40 people: 16 thousand rubles.

The product has attractive features, but scares its interface and does not inspire confidence in its quality. And at the price we are not prolazim him.

Unfortunately, after several hours of googling, I could not find an option that matches my criteria. If it does exist, I will be grateful for the link.

These are your hipsters

Several times lately I have heard about one or another place about slak (Slack in the languages ​​of the Romance group). What is this some new, hitherto unseen thing, or a chat on steroids, or a forum with a strange way of showing topics? The Americans are there from Slak baldeyut, and every self-respecting startup uses it (on its MacBooks, sipping smoothies and coffee from Starbucks). One of my colleagues recently went to a startup that creates a competitor Slack.

Well, slak means slak, there can not be so much HYIP out of nothing. A quick examination of the patient revealed the presence of new lotions, some channels with hashtags, and an unusual interface. And the desire to be at the forefront of technology was certainly strong, but the interface of our overseas friend does not have translations into other languages ​​at all, and you can only install an Apple on your server (which, as you know, can do everything, but not everything). Well, a little file.

Oh, and there are still hipchat. It's like slak, only hipchat. And also there is no translation, and also not to deliver. But for hipsters. And for robots.

(in the voice of a hipster robot) Something new is so great!

But I would like our

Already having time to get upset by hopelessness, after a couple of weeks, I almost accidentally stumbled upon Zulip - an OpenSource competitor of Slack (or maybe not a competitor, who will disassemble them there), very similar to what I need. It is free, and anyone can install it on their server, even if that person is a company of 50 people.

Although it quickly became clear that this option is not suitable due to complexity (there are sections, sections have topics, and only topics have chats to which you can write something) and, how can I say this without anglicisms ... well, so far without them, the User Experience in it is generally sad. And yes, only in English.

Something like this looks like a patient with a strange name.

But this is closer, and indeed there may be something suitable in the world of OpenSource! A little more chased the search string, and found the Mattermost and Rocket chat. The latter eventually won the audience award for me, and entered our home as a new member of the software ecosystem. And why, because he has translations, translations!

This is how it all looks.

Briefly buns and minushki rocket chat

First, of course pluses:

  • There is a translation into Russian. Yes, it is not complete, but almost, and in which case something can be done to translate the necessary things into your language. Translations are hosted on the portal lingohub.com, specially made for this. The author of this post to his honor (and modesty) translated 60% of what has not been translated, and is not going to stop.
  • You can put on your server under Linux in one line (really, one, and it works).
  • Clients are under all platforms except Windows Phone :( poor, poor WP! (I myself am the former owner of Lumia)
  • There is a web version, you can quickly go from any device and, say, transfer the log file from the client’s computer, send a template or just write to a colleague
  • Separately, you can customize all notifications: from which chats to show you notifications, and from which not; separate notification settings for mobile and desktop devices
  • There is a file server, you can throw files
  • Free
  • Actively developing, sawing new features, bugs are fixed

Now the cons:

  • Bugs. Where do without them darling. They are. In places, when you click somewhere, nothing happens, in places, on the contrary, something happens that you do not expect at all. But I must say that there are not many of them, and in general the situation is approximately the same as in Xiaomi: cheap and with bugs, but in general it will go.
  • Desktop client on the electron, which in itself may not be a minus, but still not quite cool.
  • Mobile client is almost a copy of the desktop, connected via WebView (probably). On the smartphone does not work quickly and responsively.
  • Nowhere in the interface is there a list of all users. I don’t know about you, but I want to see a list of all my colleagues in the corporate chat. Because I don’t know the names of some of my colleagues, and I don’t guess about the existence of some.
  • Mmm, what else is there. Yes, there is no “On Holiday” status. Here I went on vacation, put the status of "on vacation" and everything is in chocolate.

Who cares, rocket chat is on a free demo server with full access right here .

What cool chips I found for myself in new chat rooms

Avatars - allow beginners or just introverters to better navigate who is who.

Integration - allows you to throw gifs into chat to show event notifications from the GitLab server, new articles from a corporate blog, and the devil knows what the hell knows what.


In general, at the moment we are running a rocket chat in several departments, everyone who is willing has joined it.

Now I puzzle about something else - how to make all employees forget about the good old aychat and use the new, hipstorsky Rocket Chat. And sometimes I think about whether I made the right choice after all.

PS If you read this article, and the thought arose in your head: dafuq did I just read “why did the author write this wonderful article?”, I will immediately answer:

First, my experience can be useful to someone. If I came across a similar article at the beginning of my search, it would save me a lot of effort. I hope this helps those who will be in my place.

And secondly, I am still in the ah ... Oh, what a bewilderment around everything that is happening now in the market of messengers, and I don’t have a clear understanding of what to do so that all employees are happy. Therefore, I hope that in the comments I will be prompted by the decisions that I missed, or at least share my experience in this matter.

Thirdly, the author simply wanted to complain about how bad this world is, about the unattainability of ideals and the futility of being, but Habr Giktayms is not a plaintive book, so what about this ...

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